UPDATE 8-28 3:15 pm: Dallas City Council member Jennifer Staubach Gates issued a memo on August 28 in which she rescinded the budget cuts that pertain to Dallas Animal Services.
"I would like to withdraw budget amendment #61 ... as it is an existing service," she wrote. "I included it thinking it was a new initiative."
On a kamikaze mission to lower property taxes, Dallas City Council member Jennifer Staubach Gates is recommending a controversial move: cutting back on staffing at the city's beleaguered animal shelter.
Gates' recommendation is part of a budget amendment she sent to Dallas City Manager T.C. Broadnax and the City Council late in the day on August 27.
The City Council is currently sifting through the 2018-2019 budget and faces a dilemma over compensation for police officers.
The Dallas Police Department has lost at least 600 officers in the past five years due to low salaries and an upheaval over its pension fund. To retain officers and firefighters, Council members Scott Griggs, Philip Kingston, and Omar Narvaez are suggesting a 5 percent raise which would come from funds raised in property taxes.
On the other side are Gates, along with Council member Lee Kleinman and Mayor Mike Rawlings, who are rallying to lower property taxes, even if it means taking away from departments desperately in need.
Gates' amendment calls for cutbacks from Dallas Animal Services (DAS), along with Code Compliance and Human Resources.
Her amendment would cut $345,000 from DAS' budget — money that has been earmarked for seven staff hires: 2 field officers, 4 shelter staff, and 1 administrative position.
Dallas Animal Services still grapples with an ongoing animal problem, with loose dogs, strays, bites, and cruelty issues.
Gates has mounted a big push, making appearances on local news shows, insisting that any raises for police and fire personnel need to come from cuts in the budget, and claiming that "taxes are the cause of the erosion of the middle class."
Kleinman tweeted the baffling proposition that "Property tax is regressive and creates a heavier burden on the poor. Furthermore, renters are additionally burdened because they don't benefit from Exemptions for Homestead or Seniors."
A twitter account for the Dallas Firefighters Public Safety Committee asked, "Anyone else notice 2 of the wealthiest council members (@cmjsgates & @LeeforDallas)and our rich mayor @Mike_Rawlings all voted against raises for police and fire?? Anyone else surprised?"
Gates, Kleinman, and Rawlings also all live in North Dallas neighborhoods that do not experience the animal issues that plague other areas across the city.
Animal groups such as Just Save the Dog have already responded to Gates' proposal, noting that the need for DAS field officers is "still quite dire."
"Fewer field officers affect call response times, trapping time, and threatens public safety," they say. "A cut in shelter staff puts animal lives at risk and threatens public safety [and] Admins save lives."
Gates' other cuts include a bailiff and 7 staffers for Code Compliance, plus a payroll software program for Fire-Rescue & Police, a teen pregnancy prevention program, and the mowing of foreclosed properties.
Added up, the total tally for her cuts is approximately $3.25 million.
She suggests that any raises for first responders come from the money saved in these cuts.
Meanwhile, Gates was one of four Council members to say yes to the funding of an ESPN football bowl game in Dallas on the day after Christmas, putting the $300,000 cost on taxpayers' shoulders.
Others who approved of the expenditure include Mark Clayton, Sandy Greyson, and Ricky Callahan. It still needs to be approved by the entire City Council.
A series of budget town hall meetings have taken place throughout August. There are still three left, on August 28, 29, and 30.